Naval Air, Unmanned: US Navy Flying Toward N-UCAS
In early 2006 the future of DARPA’s J-UCAS program seemed uncertain. It aimed to create Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV) for the USAF and Navy that could approach the capabilities of an F-117 stealth fighter.
Boeing’s X-45C was set to face off against Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Pegasus, the program had demonstrated successful tests that included dropping bombs, and aerial refueling tests were envisioned.
J-UCAS was eventually canceled when the services failed to take it up, but the technologies have survived, and the US Navy remained interested. A May 2007 non-partisan report discussed the lengthening reach of ship-killers. Meanwhile, the US Navy’s carrier fleet sees its strike range shrinking to 1950s distances, and prepares for a future with fewer carrier air wings than operational carriers. Could UCAV/UCAS vehicles with longer ranges, and indefinite flight time limits via aerial refueling, solve these problems?
Some people in the Navy seem to think that they might. Hence UCAS-D/ N-UCAS, which received a major push in the FY 2010 defense review. Now, Northrop Grumman is improving its X-47 UCAS-D under contract, even as emerging privately-developed options expand the Navy’s future choices…
Source: 12 June 2012 - defenseindustrydaily News
Photo: The U.S. Navy Force UCAS-D/ N-UCAS concept (Photo by defenseindustrydaily.com)
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